Why it’s better to be pro than to be anti – a bit of philosophy

January 15, 2018

Something that’s been eating at me recently.

And I had to talk about it…

If you’re basically anyone I know, either here in Spain or back in the US, you’re really worried about Donald Trump being president.

You might even be proudly “anti-Trump”.

Or whatever.

But I’d like you to consider something for a moment.

Do you really want to spend your time being anti anything?

Here’s the deal:

Being anti- goes nowhere.

Being pro- on the other hand, goes everywhere.

Most people, however, avoid being pro…

And I think I know why:

  1. Being anti is much easier. You don’t have to come up with your own ideas, just disagree with whatever someone else is doing or saying.
  2. Being pro will inevitably require some difficult thought, and take you to a place where you’re obligated to actually do some hard work – because being pro is about creation, not reaction.

Criticising others is fast and easy and gives you something that vaguely appears to be an intelligent opinion.

But it’s not.

It’s just a response to what someone else said. (And we can thank evolution and Negativity Bias for the fact that it looks intelligent at all.)

On the other hand, being pro means you have to form a coherent positive vision, and then work for it. 

Your vision is not going to realize itself on its own, and being pro will make that obvious real quick.

In other words, you can’t really suck at being anti. Just keep criticising and you’re golden. But you can easily suck at being pro… if you don’t actually take action.

seneca stature córdoba spain
Seneca, who said “If you don’t know to which port you’re sailing, no wind is favorable.”

Being anti leaves the ball in someone else’s court. “Oh, if only people in the government would stop being jerks! Oh, if only the rich would stop being so greedy. Oh, if only everyone else would change!”

Being anti means throwing up your hands and blaming others.

Being pro means taking responsibility, and that’s hard.

But I have an even better reason why you should be pro, not anti…

Because being anti gives the “enemy” all the power

I see this every day on social media.

I wake up in the morning and find that in the middle of the night, Trump’s tweeted some ridiculous thing…

And suddenly the whole “left” is ready to spend all day responding, criticising, calling him out. Tweeting about it and making their outrage clear through barely-clever Facebook memes.

But guess what?

If you’re just responding to Trump’s latest tweet every day, you’re playing right into Trump’s game.

You’re spending ALL your time in reaction.

You’re not being the change, you’re not making a change.

You’re just running after the leader like a tiny yappy dog, nipping at his heels and shouting insults on Twitter that he doesn’t even read.

Think about it: Was Steve Jobs anti-Microsoft?

No. He created something.

He might have spent a bit of time criticising Bill Gates & Co, but mostly, he did something about it.

Was Gandhi anti-British?

Again, no. He was pro-India.

Pro-Independence. Totally into DIY clothing and making his own salt. In other words, pro-lots-of-things. He didn’t sit around criticising.

He did something.

If he had sat at home and whined, today we wouldn’t know anything about him.

But he got off his ass.

Good for Gandhi.

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

One of my favorite lines from any book, ever is Dale Carnegie’s “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain”.

Carnegie spends the first chapter of How to Win Friends and Influence People giving examples of how people all think they’re right – how we all think we’re basically good people – and how nobody’s waiting for someone else to come criticize and condemn them into changing.

Al Capone, for example, thought he was a sort of public servant, persecuted for bringing joy to others… “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”

why it's better to be pro than to be anti
Al Capone’s mug shots. Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Another quote, straight from the book: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

Now let’s go back to politics, and how you might feel the need to hurl insults at Trump and his supporters.

Feel like criticizing, condemning and complaining sometimes?

Believe me, I know how you feel.

You feel like you’re changing something. Oh my, what a withering condemnation… What an astonishingly accurate critique of the failings of another!

“I really showed him!” you think.

Well, sorry, hon.

You didn’t. And you’re not.

You know who changes their mind when you criticise them?


You know how many people are waiting for your withering condemnation in order to turn everything around and see the world as you do?

Take a guess.

Criticising, condemning and complaining isn’t moving us forward – it’s just creating more animosity and division.

And neither is physically beating Trump supporters, or ostracizing and alienating them – things which my “anti” friends on social media can’t stop suggesting.

So where do we stand?

Honestly, I’m pretty apathetic about politics.

I’m pro-education, pro-creation, pro-communication between countries, pro-helping people you’ll probably never meet.

I’m pro-finding a space for our common humanity, whether or not we agree on everything.

Worrying about politics doesn’t seem like an effective way to help anyone… it’s completely non-actionable.

And personally, I’ve got so much to do as a writer and solopreneur that the actions of a bunch of suits in Washington is about #978 on the list of things I care about.

(Full disclosure, Miley Cyrus’ video for Wrecking Ball is at least in the top 100, if not top 50.)

And back in the US, people need to get the fuck off Facebook and do something.

Feel like Trump is being unfair to immigrants?

Great. When was the last time you went and helped out an immigrant? (I used to volunteer as a translator for a very small organization that did just that. Lemme tell you… Feels good to be useful.)

Think ol’ T-Dawg isn’t presidential enough to run the country?

Okay. So what are you doing that’s any more presidential?

Hating on your “enemies” is hardly stepping up to the moral high ground, is it…

So #bethechange.

Get your own life in order before demanding that everyone else does.

‘Cause what “everyone else” does just isn’t under your control.


Mr Chorizo AKA Mr Daniel.

P.S. I understand the irony in writing about this… It could be construed as a criticism, but trust me: I love y’all and I want us all to be on the same side. I think it’s just the toxic political environment that’s leading people astray. Time to hug it out, kids. Peace!

P.P.S. I’ll be back to writing about Madrid pretty soon. In the meantime, here’s an article about American culture vs Spanish culture. And here’s one about my favorite Spanish foods.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. well said, my man.

    god grant me the courage to change the things i can… wait, how does that poem go? you know what i mean.

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